US20070125681A1 - Decorative multi-compartment storage system and furnishing - Google Patents

Decorative multi-compartment storage system and furnishing Download PDF

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Publication number
US20070125681A1
US20070125681A1 US11/294,647 US29464705A US2007125681A1 US 20070125681 A1 US20070125681 A1 US 20070125681A1 US 29464705 A US29464705 A US 29464705A US 2007125681 A1 US2007125681 A1 US 2007125681A1
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trays
tray
trefoil shaped
storage
trefoil
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US11/294,647
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Charles Grubb
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Charles Grubb
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B65CONVEYING; PACKING; STORING; HANDLING THIN OR FILAMENTARY MATERIAL
    • B65DCONTAINERS FOR STORAGE OR TRANSPORT OF ARTICLES OR MATERIALS, e.g. BAGS, BARRELS, BOTTLES, BOXES, CANS, CARTONS, CRATES, DRUMS, JARS, TANKS, HOPPERS, FORWARDING CONTAINERS; ACCESSORIES, CLOSURES, OR FITTINGS THEREFOR; PACKAGING ELEMENTS; PACKAGES
    • B65D21/00Nestable, stackable or joinable containers; Containers of variable capacity
    • B65D21/02Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together
    • B65D21/0209Containers specially shaped, or provided with fittings or attachments, to facilitate nesting, stacking, or joining together stackable or joined together one-upon-the-other in the upright or upside-down position
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B25HAND TOOLS; PORTABLE POWER-DRIVEN TOOLS; MANIPULATORS
    • B25HWORKSHOP EQUIPMENT, e.g. FOR MARKING-OUT WORK; STORAGE MEANS FOR WORKSHOPS
    • B25H3/00Storage means or arrangements for workshops facilitating access to, or handling of, work tools or instruments
    • B25H3/02Boxes
    • B25H3/021Boxes comprising a number of connected storage elements
    • B25H3/023Boxes comprising a number of connected storage elements movable relative to one another for access to their interiors
    • B25H3/025Boxes comprising a number of connected storage elements movable relative to one another for access to their interiors by rotation about a common axis

Abstract

The present invention describes a storage system, which includes a plurality of stackable, rotatable trays, where at least one tray of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays includes at least one holding compartment. Also included is an interlocking mechanism for attaching and detaching each tray of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays. Additionally, the rotational spatial dimensions of the system are substantially unchanged irrespective of an open or closed configuration of any one of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The invention relates to storage systems, and, more particularly, to a decorative, multi-purpose furnishing designed as a multi-compartment container for maximizing storage capacity and accessibility.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Virtually every person, whether at work or home, needs a storage system for organizing and keeping track of items. For example, a carpenter needs a place to store different types of nails, nuts, screws, and tools, a secretary needs to store paper clips, pens, staples, tape and other office supplies, and an artist needs to store pencils, brushes, paints, wire, string, and other supply materials.
  • Because the need for storage is endless, many varieties of containers, organizers, and other storage systems have been developed. Among the numerous designs for storage systems, there are several desirable features which are typically found in common storage systems. For example, one such feature relates to the amount of storage space within the system. To maximize storage space, containers having multiple compartments have been made. These multi-compartment systems are often stacked, such as a series of stackable drawers which may individually slide out towards the user when being accessed, and then returned into the unit when no longer being accessed.
  • Another desirable feature relates to the ease of accessibility to the holding areas of the storage system. For example, a single layer of multiple compartments may be simultaneously accessed by the lifting of a hinged lid, or alternatively, a single layer of multiple compartments may be built into a hinged component, such as on a wall mounted storage unit. In either case, when the hinged lid or component is opened, a user may see and reach into any one of the compartments at one time.
  • Yet another desirable feature relates to the stability of the system. Most storage systems are not stable on their own. For example, an upright container having a hinged lid that opens from the top of the unit may tip when the weight of the lid is no longer centered over the holding area of the unit. In another example, in a storage unit using sliding or retractable drawers, the unit may tip when the drawers are in their open or accessible position, such that the weight of the items contained in the drawers extends beyond the centralized support of the storage unit. To combat this, storage systems are often mounted or attached to a secondary stable surface, such as anchoring to a wall, floor or ceiling. Units designed for stability independent of a second surface often use holes or “cubbies” that items may be inserted into and pulled out of. These cubbies are typically stacked vertically and accessed horizontally.
  • However, each of these storage systems has its drawbacks. In the case of a drawer system, a user cannot open all the drawers at the same time and see what is contained within each compartment, no less access all the drawers simultaneously, because an open drawer immediately above a lower opened drawer covers the opening of the lower drawer. In the case of the hinged lid or hinged component system, space is no longer maximized, because only a single layer of compartments may be accessed at a time. This means that either additional layers of compartments are stacked elsewhere in the system and thus inaccessible, or, to keep all compartments accessible, the shape of the storage unit is expanded considerably as the number of compartments increases. This same problem exists in the cubby system, because only a single layer of compartments may be utilized. 171 Another problem with each of these storage systems is that the spatial dimensions of the storage units are increased when accessing the individual compartments. For example, a drawer system requires a drawer to be pulled open, effectively doubling the depth dimension, or z-axis, of the storage system. Also, in the hinge model, the hinged component increases the dimensions in two directions by swinging the hinged component open to access the individual compartments. While the cubby system does not theoretically increase the needed dimensions of the storage unit when accessing the individual compartments, these compartments may never be fully enclosed, or hidden from view. Because these compartments will not have fully surrounding vertical sidewalls, the compartments cannot hold items that roll, or items that may spill or otherwise need isolated containment.
  • Thus, a need exists for a decorative storage furnishing, which provides the above described desirable features, those being maximized holding capacity, simultaneous accessibility and independent stability, at the same time and without one feature disrupting the effectiveness of the other.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • A decorative, multi-compartment furnishing and storage system is described. The storage system includes a plurality of stackable, rotatable trays, where at least one tray of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays includes at least one holding compartment. Also included is an interlocking mechanism for attaching and detaching each tray of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays. Additionally, the rotational spatial dimensions of the system are substantially unchanged irrespective of an open or closed configuration of any one of the plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.
  • Also described is a dispensing apparatus. The dispensing apparatus includes a plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, where at least one of the plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays includes at least one dispensing mechanism. The trays further include an interlocking mechanism for attaching and detaching each tray of the plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, where at least one of the plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays having the at least one dispensing mechanism is rotatable when attached to another of the plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
  • Understanding of the present invention will be facilitated by consideration of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the present invention taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like numerals refer to like parts:
  • FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a three lobe, stackable tray storage system in a closed configuration;
  • FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an exemplary embodiment of a three lobe, stackable tray storage system in an open configuration;
  • FIG. 3 is a top view of an exemplary three lobe tray for the storage system;
  • FIG. 4 is an isometric view of an exemplary three lobe tray for the storage system;
  • FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the hub of an exemplary interlocking mechanism;
  • FIG. 6 is a side view of the hub of the exemplary interlocking mechanism of FIG. 5;
  • FIG. 7 is an isometric view of the fitted receptacle of an exemplary interlocking mechanism;
  • FIG. 8 is an isometric view of the hub of the exemplary interlocking mechanism of FIG. 7;
  • FIG. 9 is a top view of the interaction of the hub and fitted receptacle of the exemplary interlocking mechanism of FIGS. 7 and 8;
  • FIG. 10 is a side view of the interaction of the hub and fitted receptacle of the exemplary interlocking mechanism of FIGS. 7 and 8;
  • FIG. 11 is an isometric view of an exemplary embodiment of an individual tray;
  • FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a V-groove axel according to an exemplary embodiment of the present invention;
  • FIG. 13 is an isometric view of an exemplary embodiment of two trays;
  • FIG. 14 is an isometric view of an exemplary locking mechanism on the bottom surface of an individual tray;
  • FIG. 15 is an isometric view of the exemplary locking mechanism of FIG. 14;
  • FIG. 16 is an isometric view of an exemplary embodiment of an individual tray;
  • FIG. 17 is an isometric view of an exemplary embodiment of an individual tray; and
  • FIG. 18 is an isometric view of an exemplary embodiment of an individual tray as a dispenser.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • It is to be understood that the figures and descriptions of the present invention have been simplified to illustrate elements that are relevant for a clear understanding of the present invention, while eliminating, for the purpose of clarity, many other elements found in typical storage furnishings. Those of ordinary skill in the art may recognize that other elements and/or steps are desirable and/or required in implementing the present invention. However, because such elements and steps are well known in the art, and because they do not facilitate a better understanding of the present invention, a discussion of such elements and steps is not provided herein. The disclosure herein is directed to all such variations and modifications to such elements and methods known to those skilled in the art.
  • The present invention provides a decorative, multi-compartment furnishing, functional as both a storage system and/or dispensing apparatus. The design of the system maximizes holding capacity and allows for simultaneous access to all compartments. Also, the present invention is independently stable, without the need for attachment to a secondary surface. The system additionally provides an ergonomic design which increases comfort and ease of transport.
  • Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 2, perspective views of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention are shown, where FIG. 1 illustrates the system in a “closed” position, and FIG. 2 illustrates the system in an “open” position. The present invention may include a series of interlocking stackable and rotatable trays, where each tray may include one or multiple holding compartments. Each tray may be in a trefoil-like, or three lobe shape, where each lobe of the tray may serve as an individual compartment. Each tray may be of the same size and dimension, so that when the trays are stacked and aligned, as illustrated in FIG. 1, an upper tray may cover the compartments of a lower tray, with the outside walls of both trays creating a smoothed surface. Any number of tray lobes may also be used, such that the alternative design does not depart from the desired features and functionality of the present invention. The three lobes of the trefoil design may extend an equal distance from the center of the tray. Also, the three lobes may be equidistant from each other. The combination of the above described geometric design may optimize the independent stability of the storage system, as well as promote better weight distribution across each of the trays.
  • In FIGS. 3 and 4, an exemplary illustration of the trefoil, or three lobe design of tray 100, is shown. As can be seen in FIG. 3, lobes 1, 2 and 3 extend an equal distance, or radius “r”, from center point 110 to outer most edges 120, 130 and 140 of lobes 1, 2 and 3, respectively. Additionally, lobes 1, 2 and 3 may be equidistant from each other, as the angle between the center line of each lobe (drawn from center point 110 to each of outer most edges 120, 130 and 140) may be approximately 120°. Each lobe may constitute or further contain a holding compartment 150, although in other embodiments, not every lobe need contain a holding compartment 150. Holding compartment 150 within each lobe may include the entire space within the lobe or a portion of the lobe for holding items, or may simply serve as a housing for a secondary container 160 that fits inside the lobe. Such secondary container 160 may be circular, or alternatively, any shape that may fit within the lobe. Holding compartment 150 may also be partitioned into any number of sub-compartments of any shape as desired. Such partitioning may be accomplished as a single mould with the lobe, by detachable walls that may slide in grooves placed on the inside walls of holding compartment 150, or any other partitioning method available and understood by those skilled in the art. Likewise, secondary container 160 may be partitioned in any manner as described for holding compartment 150. As shown in FIG. 4, tray 100 may also include a set of grooves 170 within the inner wall of tray 100. Grooves 170 may be used for attaching or locking two trays together, which will be later explained in greater detail.
  • Referring to lobe 1 of FIG. 3, and applicable to all of lobes 1, 2 and 3, the lobe may curve inward towards center point 110, creating a concave shape as related to both sides of lobe 1. Thus, when moving from center point 110 to outer most point 120, lobe 1 may be “pinched” inward near center point 100 and broader at outer most end 120. This curve, when combined with an identically shaped adjacent lobe 2 or 3, may create a rounded exterior that may comfortably rest along the leg of a person carrying the present invention.
  • Each tray may contain an interlocking mechanism, such that any number of trays may be attached in a stack or removed from the stack. For example, a user having a set of six trays in the storage system may wish to travel with only four of the trays in a stack. Because each of the trays may be completely interchangeable, the user may stack and interlock the four trays in any desired order, while leaving the two remaining trays behind.
  • The components of an exemplary interlocking mechanism are illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6. As shown in FIG. 6, a locking hub 180 may be located on the bottom surface of tray 100. Locking hub 180 may contain an extended ridge 185. Also, as shown in FIG. 5, when looking directly at the bottom of tray 100, hub 180 may have cut out or indented regions 190, which effectively remove that portion of extended ridge 185.
  • To lock two stacked trays together, hub 180 of the upper tray may be inserted into the center of the lower tray, such that cut out regions 190 of the upper tray are aligned with grooves 170 of the lower tray. Extended ridge 185 may then engage groove 170 by rotation of one of the upper or lower trays, such that extended ridge 185 enters groove 170 and holds the two trays together. The number of cut out regions 190 and grooves 170 should be the same. While the total number and position of cut out region 190 and groove 170 pairs may vary, they should be at least be positioned such that the trays are locked when the lobes of the upper tray are aligned with the lobes of the lower tray, as illustrated in FIG. 1. To unlock and remove the upper tray from the lower tray, one of the trays may be rotated until cut out region 190 is again aligned with groove 170, at which point extended ridge 185 may disengage groove 170, and the upper tray may be lifted out of the lower tray freely.
  • Through this interlocking mechanism, the present invention may incorporate any number of trays, and may allow a user to select only those trays desirable for any particular event, by stacking and locking only those trays selected. This may help a user eliminate carrying unwanted items, and reduce the carrying weight of the system during transport. It may also eliminate the need to move items from an upper container to a lower container, because the user may simply unlock and reorder the position of each tray in the stack as necessary.
  • Additionally, the exemplary interlocking mechanism described above may permit rotating the trays independently of each other, such that any number of the trays may be positioned so that holding compartments 150 are in an open configuration while still being locked in a stack. Alternatively, the interlocking trays may be rotated into an opened compartment configuration yet disengaged, or unlocked, where the trays may be simply resting or selectively positioned on top of one another when not in transport.
  • Other interlocking mechanisms may also be used, as illustrated in FIGS. 7-10. For example, in order for upper tray 700 to lock onto lower tray 800, a hub located centrally inside lower tray 800 may engage an opening within the bottom of upper tray 700. The hub may include a trefoil shaped extension 810 mounted to a post 820, such that extension 810 may be positioned slightly above the top planar level of the uppermost edge of lower tray 800, as shown in FIGS. 8 and 10. Upper tray 700 may include an opening 705 within the bottom surface of upper tray 700, of a shape identical or similar to extension 810, though slightly larger than extension 810, such that extension 810 may slide through opening 705 when upper tray 700 is placed directly atop of lower tray 800, and further extends just slightly above the bottom planar surface of upper tray 700. Thus, opening 705 functions as a fitted receptacle, or keyhole, for extension 810, which acts as a key. It should be understood that, for each interlocking mechanism described herein, each tray may contain every feature of an “upper” and “lower” tray, such that every tray may stack and interlock with any other tray and in any order as needed by the user.
  • To lock upper tray 700 and lower tray 800 together, upper tray 700 may be placed atop of lower tray 800, such that extension 810 enters opening 705 and extends beyond the bottom planar surface of upper tray 700. As shown in FIG. 9, when upper tray 700 and lower tray 800 are rotated with respect to each other, extension 810 becomes misaligned with opening 705, such that the trays may be in a locked configuration. To unlock the trays, extension 810 may be realigned with opening 705, such that upper tray 700 may be lifted off of lower tray 800. It should be understood that any matching shape of extension 810 and opening 705 may be used, so long as upper tray 700 and lower tray 800 are locked together when extension 810 has been fitted through opening 705, and misaligned.
  • Still other locking and stacking mechanisms may be used, such as a variable length center axel running through the center of a series of stacked rotatable trays, where each tray may be threaded onto the axel. As illustrated in FIG. 11, a tray may, in addition to containing an interlocking mechanism, further include a mechanism for directly attaching and detaching from a center axel. In this exemplary embodiment, a minimally flexible gapped region 1110 may be formed between two of the lobes in the trefoil design. The width of gapped region 1110 may be slightly smaller than the diameter of an axel to which the tray may attach, such that gapped region 1110 must be increased for the axel to pass through. After the axel passes through gapped region 1110, the axel enters central region 1120. Central region 1120 may have a width of the same or slightly larger diameter as the axel, such that the tray may rotate smoothly around the axel without the tray slipping or falling off.
  • As shown in FIGS. 12-15, a V-groove center axel may be used with fastenable trays. Referring to FIGS. 12 and 13, a tray 1300 may contain a gapped region 1310 containing V-shaped grooves 1320 cut into gapped region 1310. Further, a center axel 1200 may contain V-shaped grooves corresponding to V-shaped grooves 1320 of gapped region 1310, such that gapped region 1310 may slide smoothly onto center axel 1200 without tray 1300 sliding down center axel 1200. As shown in FIGS. 14 and 15, on the bottom of tray 1300 may be a fastening mechanism for locking tray 1300 onto center axel 1200. In this embodiment, the fastening mechanism may include a slidable handle 1410 recessed into the bottom surface of tray 1300. Slidable handle 1410 may further include flexible arms 1420, extended pins 1430, locking extensions 1440, which extend through a hole into gapped region 1310 of tray 1300, and grasping region 1450. To lock tray 1300 onto center axel 1200, a user may take hold of grasping region 1450 and pull handle 1410 out towards the perimeter of the lobe of tray 1300. This motion may force arms 1420 to flex slightly as extended pins 1430 slide around a bulging portion 1460, which may be formed in part by the cut out or recess within the bottom surface of tray 1300 in which slidable handle 1410 resides. As arms 1420 flex outwards around bulging portion 1460, locking extensions 1440 are “pulled” into the recess of tray 1300, and consequently out of gapped region 1310. When locking extensions are pulled out of gapped region 1310, tray 1300 may slide onto center axel 1200. Locking extensions 1440 may then be “released” back into gapped region 1310, such that locking extensions 1440 extend within V-shaped grooves 1210 and partially extend around center axel 1200, effectively locking tray 1300 onto center axel 1200.
  • Alternatively to the embodiment of FIGS. 12-15, tray 1300 may engage and/or disengage center axel 1200 via a detent mechanism, where tray 1300 may be pushed onto or pulled from center axel 1200, such that the exerted force allows center axel 1200 to push locking extensions 1440 out of gapped region 1310 without a user pulling grasping region 1450.
  • While several interlocking mechanisms have been described, still many other mechanisms may be used without departing from the spirit of the present invention.
  • The present invention may also include any sort of lid for attachment to the top tray of the storage system. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, the lid may incorporate the same interlocking mechanism used to attach two trays. Additionally, the lid may be of the same size and dimensions as the trays, so that the lid edge may neatly cap each lobe of the tray to which it is attached. In yet another exemplary embodiment, the lid may further contain electrically operative components, such as light bulbs, or any other desirable component, which may be embedded or encased within the lobes of the lid.
  • The lid may also include a handle for facilitating easy transport. For example, referring back to FIG. 1, three holes may be cut into the center of the lid, creating a three-pronged grasping region 105. When the lid is attached to the top tray, a user may extend his or her fingers through any of the holes of the grasping region to grab hold of and pick up the lid and attached trays. It should be realized that any type of handle as understood by those skilled in the art may be used, such as a hand strap or other anchored device for grasping. A shoulder strap may also be included.
  • In another embodiment, any number of lobes and their respective holding compartments 150 or secondary containers 160 may include individual lids or covers. Such lids may fit flush with the top edge of holding compartment 150 or secondary container 160, or they may overlap the top edge.
  • Because the trays within a stack of trays are completely interchangeable, any individual tray may serve as the lowest, or base tray, on which the system is supported. Thus, each tray may be adapted to accept any number of support accessories, such as legs or knobs that may be attached in any combination to the hub and/or bottom surface of the base tray. In another embodiment of the present invention, the lowest tray, positioned at the bottom of the stack of interlocking trays, may be uniquely designed to not have a hub attached to the bottom surface of the tray, and thus have a substantially planar bottom surface. In yet another embodiment, the hub attached to the bottom surface of each tray may be removable, such that the lowest tray of the stack of trays may have the hub removed. Thus, the lowest tray may sit flush to a floor, table or other horizontal surface. As mentioned above, any number of support accessories may also be attached to the bottom surface and/or the hub of the uniquely designed lowest tray to promote better stability and decrease wear to the lowest tray and the surface it is placed on. In yet another example, a support accessory may also be a rotating disk, or other swiveling mechanism as understood by those skilled in the art, for attachment to the bottom surface of the base tray to allow the entire storage system to rotate freely when placed on a resting surface.
  • The storage system of the present invention may be constructed from any building material, such as wood, plastic, metal, fiberglass, or any combination of materials. If a plastic is used, all or any portion of any particular tray may be clear or translucent, such that a user may at least partially see through the tray to view its contents. For each tray and for the lid, a single mould plastics process may be used, or individually constructed lobes and hubs may be subsequently fastened together. Because portability may be an attribute of the present invention, light weight and sturdy materials may be preferable, but not required.
  • In another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, each tray may contain a sealing material on its uppermost edge, such that the sealing material forms a sufficiently air-tight seal between two stacked trays. This feature may allow a user to store food items in the system that would otherwise go stale. The sealing material may be composed of soft plastic, foam, flexible rubber, or any other material understood by those skilled in the art that may be suitable for creating a seal.
  • The three lobe, or trefoil-like, design provides additional benefits to a user. For example, when the storage system illustrated in FIG. 1 is held by the grasping region on the lid, the curved region between any two adjacent lobes may rest comfortably aside the leg of the user holding the storage system. This design may reduce the amount of scraping or bruising that may be caused by a traditional storage system having hard edges and corners.
  • Another advantage of the design of the present invention is that every holding compartment may be accessed simultaneously if desired. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, a user may rotate each tray such that the lobes of one tray are positioned in between the lobes of either tray immediately above and below it. Thus, in this configuration, the lobes in every other tray in a stack of trays are aligned. Referring back to FIG. 4, as long as the height “h” of the tray immediately above the tray being accessed is enough to fit a hand into the holding compartment of the lobe without the lobe of the tray two trays above in alignment with the lobe being accessed, all the compartments of every tray may potentially be viewed and accessed simultaneously.
  • The present invention may have other additional features without departing from the spirit of the invention as described herein. For example, each tray may have a protrusion, extension, indentation, or cavity located on any lobe of the tray to increase the ease of rotating the tray. In one embodiment, an indentation or cavity the size of an adult human finger may be located at the outer edge of a lobe, so that a user may gain a better hold of the tray by grasping the edge of the cavity with their finger. Any such feature may provide a better grasping region for a user to rotate that particular tray.
  • In another embodiment of the present invention, a dimple and protrusion, or detent, mechanism may be used in addition to the interlocking mechanism to stabilize desirable positions between two stacked trays. For example, referring back to FIGS. 4-6, located immediately above grooves 170 may be a protruding lip (not shown) which may slide through cut out regions 190 of hub 180, such that the bottom surface of the tray may sit on the protruding lip when extended ridge 185 engages grooves 170 of the lower tray. The protruding lip may further contain a series of dimples on its top surface. In this example, single protrusions may be positioned on the bottom surface of the upper tray (not shown), such that when the upper tray is locked into the lower tray and rotated, the protrusion may engage any one of the dimples when they are aligned. When a protrusion engages one of the dimples, the upper and lower trays may be stabilized in that configuration until rotated out of that position. Only a minimal amount of additional force may be needed to disengage the protrusion from any one of the dimples. By strategically placing the protrusions along the bottom surface of the upper tray, specific configurations, such as fully open or fully closed holding compartments 150, may be selected. In another embodiment, the protrusion and dimples may be reversed, such that a protrusion may be located on the protruding lip and a series of dimples may be located on the bottom surface of the upper tray.
  • In another embodiment of the present invention, a dimple and protrusion mechanism may be used on the upper rim of the lower tray and the bottom surface of the upper tray. In this exemplary embodiment, the dimple and protrusion may engage when the upper and lower trays are locked and their respective lobes are aligned. This configuration may stabilize the “closed” position of the lower tray holding compartments. This same mechanism may also be used as between a lid and the top tray to stabilize the lid to the top tray in strategically selected positions.
  • In another embodiment of the present invention, the individual lobes of a tray may be separable from the storage system, similar to a set of drawers. As illustrated in FIGS. 16 and 17, a T-shaped slot (not shown) located on the bottom of a lobe may fit over a T-shaped runner 1614 extending from a center hub 1630 of the tray, such that each lobe abuts center hub 1630 when fully engaging its respective T-shaped runner.
  • A detent or latching mechanism may also be used to hold the individual lobes onto the T-shaped runner in chosen configurations, such that the lobes do not slide along the T-shaped runner, or disengage the T-shaped runner, unless desired by a user.
  • Additionally, an interlocking mechanism 1620, or any such interlocking mechanism as previously described, may be used, where hub 1630 may extend vertically from the center of the tray above the top of the separable lobes for engaging an opening in the bottom of another tray. Such a design may provide a user with the ability to remove, exchange or replace individual lobes located anywhere within a stack of interlocking trays.
  • In yet another embodiment of the present invention, the system may be designed as a dispenser of string, wire, fiber or any other material typically wound around a spool. For example, as shown in FIG. 18, each lobe may contain a support 1810 to which a spool may be attached. Further, the endpoint of each lobe may contain an opening 1820 for threading, or dispensing the material wound around a spool placed on support 1810. Opening 1820 may be a slot cut into the wall of the tray, or may simply be a hole through which the spooled material may be pulled. Additionally, the tray may include a cutting attachment (not shown), such as a blade or serrated edge, attached to the exterior of the tray near opening 1820. The cutting attachment may be a stationary cutting edge, which may sever the spooled material when the spooled material is pulled across the cutting edge at an angle, or it may be a moving cutting edge, such as a sliding blade that severs the spooled material when the sliding blade is pushed across opening 1820.
  • While the previously described embodiments have included vertically stacked interlocking trays, the present invention may also be oriented such that the interlocking trays are stacked horizontally, having a substantially horizontal alignment. For example, referring to the features and embodiments of FIGS. 11 and 18, the dispenser trays may be stacked along a horizontal axel, where the horizontal axel includes a supporting mechanism, such as anchoring to a wall, ceiling or other secondary surface, or alternatively includes vertical floor supports for independent stabilization. Further, the dispenser trays may include gapped region 1110 and central region 1120, so that any of the dispenser trays may be independently added or removed from the system, provided the trays are not interlocked to an adjacent tray when being added or removed from the stack. Additionally, horizontally stacked trays may include lids or covers for individual lobes as described previously, such that the components being held within the holding area do not fall out when in a horizontal stack.
  • In another embodiment of the present invention, the system may additionally include a motor for rotating any of the stacked trays, or the system may include other electrically operative features, such as lighting, heating, cooling or pressurizing mechanisms. For example, a sealed tray may be thermally controlled to keep pharmaceutical items at ideal temperatures. In another example, a tray, or even the lid, may contain a lighting source, such as a light bulb, for providing light to tray compartments, or for providing light to the general area surrounding the system, as does a lamp. To retain the aesthetic qualities of the system, any such motor, electrical component, or cord may be placed and/or pass through the center of the trays or within an axel away from the holding compartments, so that it may not be visible to a user. In another exemplary embodiment, the trays and/or lid may include electrical contacts, such that when the trays are in a stack, each tray in the stack may draw power to operate the electrical component that may reside within it.
  • It should be understood that every exemplary feature of the present invention as described herein may be used and/or combined with each other in any manner. Those of ordinary skill in the art may recognize that many modifications and variations of the present invention may be implemented without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

Claims (54)

1. A storage system comprising:
a plurality of stackable, rotatable trays, wherein at least one tray of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays includes at least one holding compartment;
an interlocking mechanism for sequentially, detachably interlocking each of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays; and
wherein a perimeter about said plurality is substantially equivalent irrespective of a rotational position of any one of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.
2. The storage system of claim 1, further comprising a lid, wherein said lid covers the top of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays, and wherein said lid attaches and detaches to the top of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays via said interlocking mechanism.
3. The storage system of claim 2, wherein said lid includes a handle.
4. The storage system of claim 1, wherein said interlocking mechanism comprises a hub and groove.
5. The storage system of claim 4, wherein said hub is removably attached to the bottom surface of at least one of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.
6. The storage system of claim 1, wherein said interlocking mechanism comprises a key and keyhole.
7. The storage system of claim 1, wherein said at least one holding compartment is partitioned into sub-compartments.
8. The storage system of claim 1, wherein said at least one holding compartment includes at least one removable secondary container.
9. The storage system of claim 1, wherein a swivel mechanism for rotating and holding into position a stack of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays is attached to the bottom surface of the bottom tray of said stack of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.
10. The storage system of claim 1, wherein the bottom tray of a stack of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays further includes support accessories on the bottom surface of the bottom tray.
11. The storage system of claim 1, wherein a detent mechanism holds any two stacked adjacent trays of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays in a predetermined configuration.
12. The storage system of claim 11, wherein said predetermined configuration holds at least one of said at least one holding compartment at least partially open.
13. The storage system of claim 11, wherein said predetermined configuration holds said at least one holding compartment fully closed.
14. The storage system of claim 1, further comprising at least one electrically operative component.
15. The storage system of claim 1, wherein each tray of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays further includes a three lobe design, and said at least one holding compartment is located within each lobe of said three lobe design.
16. The storage system of claim 15, wherein at least one lobe of said three lobe design is independently separable from each tray.
17. The storage system of claim 15, wherein any two trays of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays forms a substantially air-tight seal between said two trays of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays.
18. The storage system of claim 15, wherein said at least one holding compartment comprises a spool support and a dispenser opening.
19. The storage system of claim 15, wherein at least one of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays further includes a gapped region between any two lobes of said three lobe design for attaching and detaching said at least one of said plurality of stackable, rotatable trays from an axel.
20. A device for storing items, comprising:
a plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, wherein at least one tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays includes at least one holding compartment;
a means for sequentially, detachably interlocking each of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays; and
wherein at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is rotatable when attached to another of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
21. The device of claim 20, wherein a perimeter about said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is substantially equivalent irrespective of a rotational position of any one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
22. The device of claim 20, further comprising a lid, wherein said lid covers the top of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, and wherein said lid detachably interlocks to the top of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays via said interlocking mechanism.
23. The device of claim 22, wherein said lid includes a handle.
24. The device of claim 20, wherein said means for sequentially, detachably interlocking each of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays comprises a hub and groove.
25. The device of claim 24, wherein said hub is removably attached to the bottom surface of at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
26. The device of claim 20, wherein said means for sequentially, detachably interlocking each of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays comprises a key and keyhole.
27. The device of claim 20, wherein said at least one holding compartment is partitioned into sub-compartments.
28. The device of claim 20, wherein said at least one holding compartment includes at least one removable secondary container.
29. The device of claim 20, wherein a swivel mechanism for rotating and holding into position a stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is attached to the bottom surface of the bottom tray of said stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
30. The device of claim 20, wherein the bottom tray of a stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays further includes support accessories on the bottom surface of the bottom tray.
31. The device of claim 20, wherein a detent mechanism holds any two stacked adjacent trays of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays in a predetermined configuration.
32. The device of claim 31, wherein said predetermined configuration holds at least one of said at least one holding compartment at least partially open.
33. The device of claim 31, wherein said predetermined configuration holds said at least one holding compartment fully closed.
34. The device of claim 20, further comprising at least one electrically operative component.
35. The device of claim 20, wherein at least one lobe of at least one tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is independently separable from said at least one tray.
36. The device of claim 20, wherein any two trays of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays forms a substantially air-tight seal between said two trays of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
37. The device of claim 20, wherein said at least one holding compartment comprises a spool support and a dispenser opening.
38. The device of claim 20, wherein at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays further includes a gapped region between any two lobes of said at least one substantially trefoil shaped tray for attaching and detaching said at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays from an axel.
39. The device of claim 38, wherein each lobe of at least one tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is independently separable from said at least one tray.
40. A dispensing apparatus, comprising:
a plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, wherein at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays includes at least one dispensing mechanism;
an interlocking mechanism for attaching and detaching each tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays in a stack; and
wherein at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays having said at least one dispensing mechanism is rotatable when attached to another of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
41. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein a perimeter about said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is substantially equivalent irrespective of a rotational position of any one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
42. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, further comprising a lid, wherein said lid covers the top of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays, and wherein said lid detachably interlocks to the top of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays via said interlocking mechanism.
43. The dispensing apparatus of claim 42, wherein said lid includes a handle.
44. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein said interlocking mechanism comprises a hub and groove.
45. The dispensing apparatus of claim 44, wherein said hub is removably attached to the bottom surface of at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
46. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein said interlocking mechanism comprises a key and keyhole.
47. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein a swivel mechanism for rotating and holding into position a stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is attached to the bottom surface of the bottom tray of said stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays.
48. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein the bottom tray of a stack of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays further includes support accessories on the bottom surface of the bottom tray.
49. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein a detent mechanism holds any two stacked adjacent trays of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays in a predetermined configuration.
50. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, further comprising at least one electrically operative component.
51. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein at least one lobe of at least one tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is independently separable from said at least one tray.
52. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein said at least one dispensing mechanism comprises a spool support and a dispenser opening.
53. The dispensing apparatus of claim 40, wherein at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays further includes a gapped region between any two lobes of said at least one substantially trefoil shaped tray for attaching and detaching said at least one of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays to, and from, an axel.
54. The dispensing apparatus of claim 53, wherein each lobe of at least one tray of said plurality of substantially trefoil shaped trays is independently separable from said at least one tray.
US11/294,647 2005-12-05 2005-12-05 Decorative multi-compartment storage system and furnishing Abandoned US20070125681A1 (en)

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US20090057323A1 (en) * 2007-08-28 2009-03-05 Hassell Jon P Removable bakery tray insert
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US20170341216A1 (en) * 2016-05-30 2017-11-30 Pard Hardware Industrial Co., Ltd. Storage apparatus
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